[ScreenSG] How the Devil Came to Be

It's no secret that the Chinese censors are often stricter with content than our own local censors- and director Zhang Qi said that a movie like "The Devil Inside Me" was just the kind that filmmakers in China had to tread carefully, lest they step across some boundaries. 

At the press conference the morning after his second full-length feature film was screened as the opening movie of the inaugural ScreenSingapore, Zhang explained that there was no film classification system in China and the censors had the power to decide whether or not your film had a permit to be screened. Because of that, Chinese filmmakers were already well aware of which subjects to steer clear from- ghosts, for one, would not be tolerated. 

Zhang was therefore quick to point out that his movie is not a horror film, but rather a psychological thriller. He had purposely made a movie that had a mystery at its core, a middle act that would distract his audiences from guessing what happened, and then a conclusion to bring audiences back to the truth. Zhang also added that he doesn't like movies that are bloody or violent, so it was only natural that he would avoid making movies with excessive gore or violence. 

"The Devil Inside Me was meant to be a suspense thriller," he said. "And being easily scared myself, it was relatively easy to put myself in my audience's shoes to think about how I wanted to film certain scenes." Zhang's previous movie was also of a similar genre, and the debut which had two objectionable scenes that had to be removed certainly prepared him for this one- he is proud to add that he did not need to excise any scenes from this movie. 

The young director who has only had five years of experience in the industry said that one of his greatest joys making this movie was the chance to work with experienced actors like Tony Leung Kar-Fai and Kelly Lin. "Different directors have different strengths and weaknesses," he said. "And I think one of my greatest weakness as a director is in telling my actors how to act."

"I usually just explain the scene to them and give them a general direction and leave the rest up to them," he added. "So I'm really fortunate that I have such an experienced bunch of actors who know exactly what they want to do with their characters and can deliver such wonderful performances." 

As for his next movie, Zhang said that while such thrillers tended to be relatively safe territories for young directors like himself, he hopes to venture into a different genre. "I'd like to make a movie with guns," he said. "Maybe a movie about a bank robbery would be interesting."

(Zhang Qi with supporting actress Anya at ScreenSingapore)

By Gabriel Chong